Blog Post

Online Community Manager: What Does It Take to be Successful?

Stay on Top of Emerging Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!
Photo by semaphoria
Photo by semaphoria

This is the third in a series of online community manager posts over the past couple of weeks here on WebWorkerDaily. I’ve already talked about online community manager jobs and what community managers actually do, so I thought that we’d talk about what it takes to be successful as a community manager. There are skills to learn and work habits that are useful for community managers.

Here are just a few of the skills and habits that people have already mentioned in the comments of the previous posts.

Amber Naslund says, “it’s not a 9 to 5 gig, and it’s a hybrid of so many disciplines – communication, business development, online knowledge, customer or client service.”

Joe Manna says, “most successful community managers are those that come from a strong customer service background.”

Lex Friedman says, “If you like to listen and love acting on good ideas (regardless of their source!), you’re probably a good fit for the career path.”

I also have my own list of what it takes to manage an online community.

  • Patience to let others participate without dominating the conversation.
  • Networking with a wide variety of people and being able to call on the right ones at the right time.
  • Communication skills to get your point across clearly and concisely.
  • Facilitation to help people keep discussions moving in a positive direction.
  • Technical skills and an understanding of how your community software operates can help.
  • Marketing to make sure people know about your online community.
  • Self Motivation and the ability to work without much supervision.
  • Workaholic tendencies in a global environment where the community never sleeps.
  • Organization skills to keep track of the many activities without dropping too many balls.

What do you think it takes to be a successful community manager?

14 Responses to “Online Community Manager: What Does It Take to be Successful?”

  1. Tracy Hodges

    do u know of any company that might take a intern to the community manager position. I would like to try to build a community that gives help and support for cancer patients, doctors and caregivers worldwide. When someone is dealing with a new cancer diagnosis the last thing they need is to have to surf the web and get false info.


    Tracy Hodges

  2. Great article! I’d add a thick skin to the list–you’re the easy target for people to lash out at, and being able to let that go at the end of day is the key to staying sane. Or at least laugh about. (I’m seriously considering getting tee shirts printed up that say “Master of the Grand Conspiracy” or possibly just “CENSOR.”)

  3. Dawn, great article!

    –but Colson,

    ROI? I guess it depends on the purpose of the community you host. Is it a product itself, or is it a complimentary service produced as a kind of brand outreach? In the latter case, providers are better off measuring impact and success by other means, whether audience size, buzz or even something even more intangible. And if you ask your PR department, that’s probably just fine.

  4. Guy – great point, I should have mentioned RSS & monitoring. It is so important to be able to find what people are saying about you, your company, and your products when they aren’t being said in your community!

    Robert – excellent point on the dark side of community management. Our new editor Simon thinks I should devote a whole post to it next week :)

  5. The one thing I feel being ignored in this conversation is ROI. Any additional staffing is overhead and needs to be justified. A good business sense and deep understanding of your operational goals will allow you to build brand equity and insert yourself into conversations that may drive a sale or at least an inquiry.

  6. You seem to be ignoring the dark side of the profession. I’ve seen a lot of challenging issues come up in the online communities I participate in. For example: you’ll have to deal with trolls and other disruptive individuals, you’ll have to deal with copyright issues when content providers put up material they don’t own the rights to, and you’ll have to deal with security when women attract stalkers and kids are being preyed upon. YouTube started out as a video sharing site and then became a social networking site but they failed miserably when it came to managing that aspect of the business.

  7. ryanjlewis

    Great Posting! The only thing I would add could be someone with a Chamillion personality and a strong sense of social norms. Managers have to adjust to conversations and situations, so a good people person is a must.

    Thanks for the post!

  8. Hey Dawn,

    I agree with your bullet points – I’d classify most of the information ones under something I’ve been teasing around in my mind called ‘information synthesis and distribution’.

    As a community manager, you need the personal networking contacts, ability to process information from those contacts and other sources (RSS feeds, etc.), and the ability to bring all of that together with your own expertise & experiences to best serve your community.

    Keep up the interesting posts here – good stuff!